Saturday, January 30, 2010

Pep Talk

It is the next to last day of January, and so very cold outside. We didn't get the snow and ice that has paralyzed the south, but we're in a deep freeze and, now that the sun's gone down, it's going to get even colder overnight.

So why am I thinking about playgrounds? You know, like swings and slides and climbing gyms? Walks around the lake, children's water parks? Could it be I'm wishing for warmer days?

Not really.

I'm remembering my granddaughter's delight at summer's end when we took her to the water park and she, at sixteen months old, ran through the sprays. Wet and wiggly, she ran from her daddy into the fountain and out, right into my arms, just about knocking me over. Back and forth, back and forth. She couldn't get enough of the absolute glee of it all. She had discovered something new and loved it. And we loved experiencing it with her.

I think that's one of the things about writing that I enjoy most--discovery. Whether it's discovering who my character is (and I haven't quite gotten there yet) or journaling two or three pages only to come to an "aha" moment of something I didn't realize I was thinking, different from the original direction I thought I was headed in, there's fun in the process.

And so I tell myself, play with words. Play with ideas. Play with character sketches, motives, conflict, themes. Don't make the process hard. Go to the playground of writing. Swing a bit. Dash through the fountain and feel the spray. Choose discovery.

No mattter what the temperature outside is!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Sittin' and Thinkin'

Character sketches continue, but I'm also on a deadline for a magazine article, and this is the week to get serious. But nothing is coming together. I'm stumped and getting frustrated. I sit and think, sit and think. And then I...okay, I admit it...just sit. Like my poster says.

It's one of my favorite fun things, this poster. I got it in college but particularly enjoyed it in my first apartment where it hung on the wall in my small kitchen alcove.

But then came marriage and a "real" apartment where "real" life began--and I questioned the poster. Was it too silly to display, now that I was married and supposedly more sophisticated? I guess I thought so, because I ended up giving it away. My sister Sandy gladly accepted it, framed it in style, and enjoyed it for several years.

Time passed, bringing lots of changes. We bought a house, raised a family, experienced good times--and bad, especially during my sister's prolonged illness. The days surrounding her passing were difficult. But, as happens at such times, "stuff" had to be sorted through. That's when the poster came back to me--happily and by request, but now with more meaning. The poster again claimed a place in my kitchen.

The quote about sitting and thinking, or not, is attributed to legendary Satchel Paige, one of baseball's greatest pitchers. Although the words are not grammatically correct, they are heart-correct, a reminder of a need for time out. Time out for a famous pitcher to rest his arm. Time out for a writer to capture that elusive writing thought. But also time out of life's busyness to share in and nurture relationships with those around us while we can.

And no amount of sophistication can teach us that.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Characters and Story

As a child, I had dolls, my own little rocking chair--and books. And I loved my books. I'm told I thought I could "read" at two years old--except that, as I parroted the story, I held the book...upside down.

Later I'd happily skip off to school with a bit of money Mom gave me for the Scholastic book fair. And my grandmother contributed by way of a membership in a children's book-of-the-month club--some of which I still have. In the early teen years, friend Kathy and I frequented the town library and toted numerous books back and forth.

Some of my favorites when I was little? The Secret Garden, Heidi, Little Women. As I got older I loved Mitchell's Gone with the Wind, Catherine Marshall's Christy, and a title from my grandmother's shelf, The Edge of Time, by Loula Grace Erdman.

As I begin the journey into my next book, I'm anxious to get to know my main character. Who is she? What does she need/want? What conflicts will rise up to block her way? What's her story? I have a couple of ideas, but not enough yet.

And so I'm revisiting some of my favorite books and reacquainting myself with "old friends," seeking the threads as to why their stories have endured. I continue to read new titles, and explore their threads--to glean and grow and go forward.

What about you--who are some of your childhood book "friends," and why?

I've always sort of believed that these people inside me--these characters--know who they are and what they're about and what happens, and they need me to help get it down on paper because they don't type. --Anne Lamott

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Switching Gears

I recently purchased a netbook computer thinking it would be good to have for when I'm out of town. Theoretically, I told myself, I could also use it on the rare occasions when my hubby and I want the desk computer at the same time. But, realistically, how often does that happen? Not very often.

Until tonight. Bill wanted to check some sports scores and statistics. So I relinquished the desk chair and took the laptop into the living room.

Frustration soon set in. I found myself fuming about how small the keys are, how I can't type fast on it, how I'm continually backspacing to separaterunonwords, or deleting numb3rs that pop up where they don't belong.

Then it struck me. My brain was having trouble "switching gears" from one thing to another. Not so unusual for me, really. When writing I can: a) miss something my husband is saying, 2) forget to start supper on time, 3) neglect to make an important phone get the idea. Switching gears is not my strong suit.

Les Edgerton, in his book Finding Your Voice, says, " definition of intelligence (is) the ease, quickness, and skill of one's ability to adapt to multiple environments." Hmmmm. He uses this definition to illustrate how the successful writer will be able to give different characters different voices and still stay true to her own voice. But I'm wondering if somehow the skill can be transferred from the writing bubble to real time.

Intelligence aside (since some might question the level of that!), I would like to be able to switch gears more easily and "adapt" to multiple environments with a quicker response time. Maybe my new laptop will show me how. Like so many things, including writing, it will take practice.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Today I had thought to post my reactions on what a profitable writers' meeting our group had yesterday--how we shared goals for the upcoming year, cheered each other on to pursue those goals, and encouraged each other to stay the course. It's easy to talk about writing, and then fritter away precious writing time. My writers' group helps keep me accountable.

I thought to post about silencing self-doubt and uncertainty, about embracing the challenge--and joy--of writing. I thought to post about the importance of seizing any and all opportunities of a new year, though at this point still unrevealed, and at the same time offer a pep talk, mostly to myself, about not letting other things crowd out writing this year. Love, laugh, hug, experience, write. I was charged up. The year, in my mind's eye, dawned like a new morning, with all kinds of potential and promise just waiting to be pursued, step-by-step, word-by-word.

Although it's all true, and I would still say those things, those thoughts are overshadowed by the news of yesterday's devastating earthquake in Haiti.

And right now all I can say are prayers.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Blog Launch

It's a new year with the promise of new things ahead. I've submitted my children's historical fiction (yes, the one about a pioneer family living in a hollow sycamore tree that I've been working on for years) for a professional critque. Can't wait to see if, after all this time, I've made progress or if there's much more work to be done. Next on the list? Sending out queries.

Then there's the second book. When does research stop and writing begin? This year! This novel will feature a stone barn built about the time of the Civil War. Inspiration? The wonderful barn I see every day across the road from my little country house. I've always been intrigued by the date, 1861, welded from wagon wheel rims and mounted next to the arched doorway. What stories could this barn tell?

Then there's this blog--a new adventure in itself. My desire is that it be a place where I can talk about writing, share my journey, invite discussion from others about theirs, and have fun along the way.

There are words to discover, stories to write, pictures to take, challenges to face--all part of a life meant to be embraced and explored. And let's not take for granted the everyday gifts with which we are blessed. For me these gifts include my husband/best friend, my children and their spouses, and the joy of our precious little granddaughter--along with the anticipation of our grandson's birth in May.

Happy New Year to all who drop in to see what's going on in the pages of my blog.